Ooooh lord, someone splash some holy water on me and pass me a big glass of communion wine because this week’s episode of RuPaul’s Drag Race took me to CHURCH!
Literally! This week’s maxi challenge split the remaining twelve queens into two groups to recreate a Tammy Faye Baker inspired live televangelist service dedicated to worshiping a pop diva of their choosing. Parodying evangelical Christianity is well trod material for the show (and the drag community as a whole) at this point, but I’m not tired of it yet (as a forced former attendee of said churches in my youth) and I don’t think they’ll be stopping anytime soon.
The first team, led by Nina West and consisting of: Brooke Lynn Hytes, Vanessa Vanjie Mateo, Yvie Oddly, Mercedes Iman Diamond, Silky Nutmeg Ganache, and Ariel Versace chose to worship at the altar of Britney Spears with the IBBN – “It’s Britney Bitch Network.” Nina and Brooklyn were the hosts, Miss Vanjie was responsible for converting non believers Yvie and Mercedes, and Ariel and Silky brought it home with some Spears inspired gospel music. Nina was a fantastic team leader, not just in her delegations before taping but also kept things running with a smooth stream of Britney infused jokes as the host. Miss Vanjie ABSOLUTELY SLAYED as the conversion specialist. Literally every line she spoke was hilarious and her hair flips were perfection.
The whole team was on top of it, well rehearsed, and every moment was chock full of references to their diva. I actually almost came around on liking Silky more this episode because she was more subdued and wasn’t constantly trying to hog the spotlight (until Untucked that is, when she immediately threw an angry tantrum and ugh. Just ugh.) Vanjie was the breakout star of the scene but I think Ru was right to give the win to Nina for being an excellent team leader.
The second team was helmed by Ra’Jah O’Hara and consisted of Scarlet Envy, Plastique Tiara, Honey Davenport, Shuga Cain, and Akeria Davenport. They chose to worship at the church of Mariah Carey with their “When You Believe” network. Scarlet and Shuga were the hosts, Plastique attempted to convert Akeria, and Honey and Ra’Jah closed it out with a song. This team was, to be frank, a hot mess. Ra’Jah lost control of her team almost immediately, and ended up picking a diva that none of them knew anything about. Which, first, how did none of them know anything about Mariah??? RuPaul tried to help them by giving them a few bits (like that she calls her followers her lambs) but those ended up being the only pieces of reference they used. They were clearly unrehearsed and without Mariah knowledge to fall back on, the taping fell apart fast. Honestly, the only funny thing they had was Plastique’s demonic sounding utterances of “ARIANA GRANDE” but they were funny because they made no sense for her character. It came across like she was the one in need of exorcising instead of the other way around. To cap it off, Ra’Jah and Honey’s song was off-key, again unrehearsed, and not harmonized. It was one of the most uncomfortable drag acting challenges I’ve ever witnessed.
This posed an interesting dilemma for the show (and it’s producers.) I don’t think since the Shakespeare meltdown of season 7 has one team dropped the ball so utterly. Especially when the other team knocked it out of the dang park. While it was a first in Drag Race Herstory, Ru’s choice to make all six of the losing queens lip sync for their lives made perfect sense, and considering that all six queens took equal blame for their poor performance and refused to point the finger at one another. Some did make excuses however. Like Plastique Tiara claiming that she doesn’t know pop culture because she’s only been in the US for ten years. That was a hilarious and RIDICULOUS excuse because, as Miss Akeria pointed out “um they have the internet in Vietnam” and also because ten years is a literal decade. That’s enough time to listen to some music, girl. Especially if you’re a drag queen.
And now for a quick rundown of the runway looks! The theme this week was FRINGE.
Nina West: I loved her Carol Burnett-esque fringe mop hat! Why have a wig, when you can have more fringe!?
Brooke Lynn Hytes: The hippy flower look was pretty but the only fringe was on the skirt.
Vanessa Vanjie Mateo: She looked gorgeous but it just a red bodysuit. A flawlessly executed and expensive looking bodysuit, but a bodysuit nonetheless.
Yvie Oddly: This look was STUNNING. PINK JELLYFISH REALNESS. I love how Yvie is constantly pushing to the limits with her drag and her runway looks from week to week. She is becoming one of my favorite queens this season.
Mercedes Iman Diamond: She continues to struggle and feels withdrawn and uncomfortable. (Though this week I can’t really blame her. That spear joke was cringey and she clearly didn’t want to say it, or talk about her faith.) But this look was purely meh.
Ariel Versace: Listen, I love Lisa Frank and Jem as much as the next female millennial but her face and wig have been basically the same for the past three weeks. She needs to change it up!
Silky Nutmeg Ganache: Ok at some point her messy drag is going to have to be addressed. The blue was stunning on her, but the white snape tape down the sides was visible every time she twirled and her makeup always looks like it was applied with a damp rag.
Scarlet Envy: Another flawless bodysuit, but she either chooses eyebrows that are too big or nonexistent.
Shuga Cain: I loved this look and thought it was a stunning tribute to her heritage. Michelle Visage was right when she pointed out that THIS is what an elevate bodysuit should look like.
Plastique Tiara: She always serves beautiful fish, but this was not an exciting look.
Akeria Davenport: She SLAYED this look. Fabulous from head to toe.
Honey Davenport: This look was very dramatic and impactful but also (because it was her tribute to stopping gun violence) very heavy and funereal.
Ra’Jah O’Hara: Michelle was right again when she said this was look for a bar. This was not a flawlessly executed jumpsuit. This was basic and had some last minute fringe haphazardly tacked onto it.
Ultimately, Ru’s rightful decision to make all six queens LSFYL made for one of the most intense lip syncs in the herstory of the show. They all brought it hard, and the decision to show it in split frame really amped up the tension. Unfortunately for Honey Davenport, her choice to drop off the edge of the stage and roll around on the floor for too long took her out of the spotlight and made her the easy choice for the axe. I was sad to see her go so soon, but these early episodes are designed to thin the herd and in this competition you can’t have an off moment.
RuPaul’s Drag Race airs Thursdays at 9pm on VH1.